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ART BEAT: Barefoot in the Park celebrating tenth anniversary this spring

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Barefoot in the Park is celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring. (Special Photo)

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Holley Calmes

Ten years ago, a group of Gwinnett art patrons led by Caryn McGarity committed to producing an arts festival for their community, one that would shine light on local visual and performing artists. Since that time the festival, traditionally held in early May, has blossomed into one of the most popular spring events in the region.

So mark your calendars, because this year’s Barefoot Festival will be held on Mother’s Day weekend, May 10 and 11 in the beautiful Duluth Town Green.

“Barefoot is a two-day Artists’ Market providing art experiences for all ages; from Children’s Art Park, Adult Learning Village, Student Art Exhibit and Performing Artists demonstrating their talents on our performance stage throughout the weekend,” McGarity said.

It has also become a popular way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Families bring moms and let them shop for the ideal gift from among the many wonderful creations on sale — paintings, jewelry, glass, photography, fiber art and much more.

There is another reason for the festival — arts education within our community.

“Barefoot In The Park, Inc. is a 501(c) nonprofit organization and our funding is derived from the support of the business community in the form of sponsorships, institutional grants, private donations and artists fees. The proceeds go to our Arts Education Scholarship Fund, which we have awarded over $50,000 in grants to individuals in both the visual and performing arts,” McGarity said.

Many community organizations come together to create the festival each year. The Hudgens Center for the Arts helps run the Adult Learning village where students and adults can go to experience creating their own art projects. Binders Art Supply graciously donates all the art supplies for the Children’s Learning Village. Barefoot provides free arts experiences for more than 2,000 children and teens each year.

The Gwinnett County School System provides the art teachers in local schools supplies as part of a class project to create artwork for the Student Art Exhibit, which is for preschool through 12th-grade students. The artwork is judged and awards and scholarships are given. Artwork is on display all weekend long.

The Gwinnett County Public Library System partners with Barefoot at the Gala Fashion Show showcasing “Pulp Fashion’s” altered book fashions. They repurpose old books into fashion and sculptures. Outfits are on display all weekend, along with Altered Book Sculptures.

Georgia Gwinnett College supports the Student Art Exhibit by also exhibiting artwork from college-level students.

Gwinnett Ballet Theater personnel help book a variety of performing arts groups on the Main Stage and 2nd Stage venues. The city of Duluth donates staff time to help with logistics and support. Gwinnett Medical Center and many other community leaders, organizations and corporations support the Artists Market, and an awe-inspiring menagerie of fine visual artists apply to Barefoot, where they can exhibit and sell fine art and fine crafts all weekend long.

To find out more about participating in Barefoot, as an artist, performer or volunteer, visit www.barefootinthepark.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.